Making a Back-Up for the World’s Knowledge

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In April, a forest fire descended Cape Town’s Table Mountain, quickly reaching the University of Cape Town. Historic buildings on campus fell to the flames, including Jagger Library, home to rare collections of South African books and other literature such as anti-apartheid pamphlets. Because some of the collection was digitized, however, losses to the UCT archives are thought to be limited.

University libraries around the world exist to provide safe and secure homes to vast stores of published and unpublished materials, in physical and digital form, from books and journals to illustrations and photos.

In 1999, Stanford University librarians pioneered a new field of digital-first archiving when they created LOCKS – an acronym for “Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe.” The virtual organization CLOCKS or “Controlled LOCKS” now maintains authoritative versions of 43 million journal articles and 240,000 book titles, as well as a growing collection of supplementary materials and metadata information.

Making a Back-Up for the World’s Knowledge

“For research libraries, there is a strong need to champion the importance of digital preservation,” says Alicia Wise, who was recently appointed Executive Director of CLOCKSS.

“Investment in these services helps ensure researchers will have long-term, continuing access to the journals and books that they value.”

Wise has long been active on access issues for research information. Most recently, she worked as a consultant in scholarly communications, advising libraries, funders, and publishers on sustainable strategies for navigating the rapidly changing information landscape.

Christopher Kenneally

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's podcast, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.

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